Filling myself up







from the darkest




in which


I dwell.


Each word

is a spark—

an ember blown up fiery against the dark sky


—smoke and mirrors—


the slow blossom

of color

swirling through thick liquid,


captured in the

wobbly lens of amber memory.


The Words are larger than myself.

Their fire bursts forth tearing my pores,

charring my bones,

the chemical catalyst of my flesh

metamorphosed utterly

into its former self.


The breath of gods is inhaled only as an immolation,

and exhaled


as a terrible



And the man and his wife hid themselves…

—Genesis 3:8



It is the breezy time of day,

when God is heard

walking in the velvet garden,

just before sunset.


Roots wind beneath

the coverlets of earth,

fleshy mandrakes

drawing water in the dark.


He whispers

an earthy breath—

where are you?


They don’t answer,

the man and his wife—

two forked roots intertwined,

children of the ground.


Kinga (1224-1292) is the patron saint of Poland, honored for providing salt for her subjects. The discovery occurred when she threw her engagement ring into a local mine shaft, finding it a country away in a block of Polish salt.

A reluctant bride, I bring no sparkling dowry,

just precious salt distilled from Miocene seas –

power against the devil’s terror.


I want no kingdom, no spouse.

Boleslav and I vow chastity

until his death when I may become

the poor nun I’ve always been at heart.

I withdraw to cloister’s shadows, no monarch,

no one special.


But grateful miners, threatened by gas, collapse,

cold death in labyrinthine darkness,

shape me into a salt statue

at the bottom of the shaft.

Larger even than life, I’m crowned again,

my robe etched in scrolls, hair laced

about my face, more a goddess’ face

than this nun’s plainness.



My statue leans forward, palms open

to the salt miner kneeling before me.

He returns my ring encased in a crystal block,

(as if I could want such sparkling now).

Espoused again.


They also construct for me an underground salt cathedral,

with altars, crucifixes, rock salt chandeliers.

Illuminated like a manuscript, it tells my story

as they must tell it.



My pipe organ prayers go with them,

protect them through the zig zag kilometers

of the deepest tunnels.

Sainted, at their service.




[In an enchanted wood]


In an enchanted wood of a remote, dark land

a Citadel’s been erected, and remains

unbothered, but for the occasional doves and bats

that brave the invisible bulwarks, by chance

more than mission. She—if a fortress is a she,

that is—chuckles intermittently

at legions marching past who do not see,

at knights stomping on reconnaissance

who do not see, at the renegade few

who see but to ford her moat and scale

her walls go ker-clunk ker-clunk ker-plash

unwilling to disburden themselves of armor

which makes her defenses effective,

the battlements inaccessible. Their falls

seem noble as the antics of court fools

or circus clowns. But still she has assumed

the reputation of a wit, a curmudgeon.


But were anyone to shed the heft

and armor of the world I bet

they’d be able to rise into her inner

sanctum, and steal the gold or whatever

treasures there are. Naked, free and light

they’d traipse through the keep and the dongeon, parade

through halls and dance atop the throne—

since there are no sentries, they’ll think they are alone—

until they hear a footstep, and then see. . . .


Have you guessed what the fort really is?

Like Atlantis, no one living knows if

it’s been lost or ever really was.

But sometimes in a twilight still and clear

I think I hear the faraway sound

of armor being dropped, and then, coming

nearer, ever nearer, on tiptoe yet,

a naked, intrepid, intrigued and intriguing



                        He came looking for me, that king. He knew

                        what I could do. Later, his strength revealed

                        itself. He was tall. He was tired. I screamed

                        because a ghost arrived—they never do—

                        I call, but they’re just dead. I often dream

                        they come but—until that day—tombs stayed sealed.

                        The king’s poor head had no time to go gray

                        like mine. I killed a calf for him. He—stayed.

                        Don’t think I’m powerless. I’m not a fake.

                        But voices tickle air—that’s how I work

                        most nights. That time, a man I saw buried

                        stood right here. Forget it. Let me just bake

                        flatbread. That king’s dead now. Don’t get carried

                        away. Prophets—kings—they stay under earth.




Her feet twitch one last time

before being stilled



A dangling reminder

that they could not move fast enough

to carry her to safety

from a man who believed

that what he felt was love.


Saddled with nothing to do

but fade from memory

and even that, stolen,

by the legends, the tales, the whispers.


Her very existence dissolved

into a symbol of her attacker’s mania.


Oh! If only she had more time.

Or a mouth to scream.

          Theseus slew the Minotaur and escaped

          with the aid of Ariadne’s thread but,

            I learned later—after my mythology book had spent

          dark years mildewing in a box—abandoned her on Naxos.


            I came to consider that youth unheroic, more than

            just careless in causing his father’s suicide,

          returning alive from the man-beast’s den,

          and forgetting to change black sail for joyous white.


            So I try to reconcile the creep and the hero from

            my reading of long ago, 


            and will work on Jason and Medea the same.

          At least she gave her man blood and guts

         and a dragon exit—half of the couple, heroic—



Dionysius, mother-burned, drunk-struck,

rambled insane across continents. 


Osiris was quartered, decapitated, castrated,

dismembered and plopped in the Nile.


Odin hung himself from the highest, coldest branch

until death came as a sweet lover.


Buddha knew no peace

until poverty and wilderness woke him.


Yahweh made his own shadow,

an ashy residue forever marring his creation.


Jesus got kissed and betrayed,

spiked to a cross and left to die.


Muhammad heard the angel

only in Hira’s shadowy, glum solitude.


We see divinity in pain and loneliness

and wonder why our world bleeds so much.

‘Keep going, men! Go on! Go on!’

The snow carried his caws to us,
the snow was all to see.
The snow stretched our eyes from lid
to lid, the snow
cased us up to the knee.

‘Keep going, boys! Go on! Go on!’

A man panted next to me–
a man tore into my sleeve.

A yell–

his hand loosened–

a cry–

it was gone–

a cry–

a cry.

I stopped in the snow, and called
out his name, and dug through the white
with my half-frozen hands, but the man
never cried again.

‘Keep on, my friends, keep on! Keep on.’

Struggling to stand, I stared at the spot
but white was all to see. At the place
where his hand had clutched
to the last, the cold stabbed
through holes in my sleeve.

Then, there, just under
the crack
and the moan, faltering, froze
to the bone:

‘Keep on, good men– keep on– keep on.’

Through the pain in my head
and the pain in my legs, and the poison
sleep easing each, I
kept on– I kept on.

For a time I can’t tell, and no distance
I know, I forced through the world in a trance. Oh,
the demon wind whistled, and creaked, and it
groaned, and sky broke in two
and collapsed.

And no more did I hear, ‘Keep on– keep on.’

Who was there left? Who can say?
Who can say? I’ll never
be able to say.

But, then, though I tried to go on, though I fought
for the breath in my burnt-up lungs, I knew
I would die– I would die.

And the sleep stole me over, the sleep
won me over, and I lay on my back
in the snow, and the snow
caved in to cover my head, and I breathed
in the god of my tomb.



I heard a flute playing, note by note,
a chime,
a chime.

I heard the notes of a nursery rhyme.

Snow melted from my lifted face, and
beauty crept in at the edge of pain,
and a woman smiled at me.

Such a woman I’ve never seen.

She was naked in that storm and strife,
and her skin was such a blinding white,
it blended into the snow. Her long
black hair was loose,
and wild, and her eyes and lips
were blue as ice, and this beauty
smiled at me.

‘If I were cruel,’ she said, then, sweet,
‘I’d take you like those other men, and you’d never
never leave. But– what
a pity– what
a pity– to steal
such a pretty young boy.’

She touched my lips with one thin hand, and warmth burst
in, and she leaned close to chime and keen:

‘If you should ever tell of this, to
any live thing, man or beast,
I’ll come and snatch you to me.’

And she left me there on the cold hard ground,
then she left me without a sound.
Then she left me right there on the ground.

Now I’ve told–
I’ve told, I’ve told–
and now, she’ll come for me–

Sisters conflicted over roles, Part II

(This interview has been edited for clarity and length)


Damn Antigone?

Yes, my words.

Gutsy, but understand

promises were made.


The script was clear:

I’d wear submission

like a crown

foiling her pigheadedness.

Then, in one iconic turn,

I’d follow her to death.


Yes, I take this personally!

She rewrote my part

and stole the stage,

dressed me in untragic flaws,

cast me against her wall.

Do shadows stand a chance?


A “foil,” she said,

“Understudy” isn’t you.


Who was she to know?

She missed the cues.

Never knew who I was

or how I grew.


No, not much left.

No family or crown.

No respect to rest

my laurels on.

I wear the same dress

every day and sit

in dust to wait.


For an oracle, of course.

One must surely come.

Ismene, she will say,

your fate is … thus and so.

I know there’s more:

another stage, script,

chance to prove a child

can outstrip a family curse.    


The closing scene,

it’s in my mind:

I exit right –

triumphant, even brave –

redeemer of my kin.


How? Who knows?

That’s what oracles are for.

But, can you see it now?

Royals frown,

townsmen bow,

prophets gasp,

Chorus sings

my praise on cue.

No more oblivion.

They know my name.

At last, they know my name.




I drift across the ocean

above a lava coral reef

this blue skied noon.

I hear a cry echo from the shore.


My sister needs me. Pele.

I feel hands around her throat.

Her ti leaf dress being torn.

Her hair ripped from the root.


I fly fast to where she lies

and find her beneath Kama-pua,

the pig himself—half hog, half man, all lust.

My sister cries, he grunts.


I address the beast,

I am the sacred night streak with dark,

darker than the deepest depths of the Pacific.

Red-spotted magic of your nightmares.


Ravisher, beware. I am the red eel woman.

Sorcerous demon of desire.

You defile my sister, defile the goddess of fire.

And so you will be damned.


Words do not stir the beast,

so I wield my keo-lele*

and cast my sweet scent pass his nose.

Hook, line, sucker.



He chases and chases

my flying yoni pass Hanauma Bay,

round Koʻolau Volcano,

and crashes so hard he creates a crater.


Pleased with my yoni,

I place it back under my hibiscus skirt

and dance Laka’s sacred hula

with my sister; the sun drying her tears.


(for Marigje Arriens, burned at the stake, 1591)


Eyes and smoke

Judge’s words

Dry as twigs


Flame tugs my skirt

Like a fretful child


Time to fly the hedges

Race the rook

And ring the bell



The air is full of falling leaves,

winter’s crows caw,

tears of fog fall from the eaves,

as the mist unveils the things you never saw.


The running hound, the hare

hand in glove

call it love

to chase, to flee with so much care


And there, where the twilight turns the shadows blue,

buried in the cold dark ground

underneath the ancient yew,

all you prayed for can be found.


So the running hound, the hare

join thought, desire, memory

to chase, to love, and see

all the things that aren’t there


Though hidden by his crow-dark windblown cloak,

the one-eyed wandering king

remembers all the words you never spoke

and knows they form the rhymes the wind will sing.


Then the resting hare, the hound

will light their lamps for you

in the shadows underneath the ancient yew

where all things can still be found


As the leaves are scattered by the wind, the record spins once more,

but this time there will be time

and you’ll have the chance to see all that you missed before.